The latest in Haiti
Haiti’s healthcare system remains precarious in the wake of natural disasters and ongoing political and economic crises. Ongoing disasters have led to Haiti becoming the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Médecins Sans Frontières has worked in Haiti since 1991, focusing on responding to social violence, healthcare exclusion, endemic and epidemic diseases, and natural disasters. Our regular activities include treating those with life-threatening injuries at Tabarre hospital in Port-au-Prince, providing maternal and sexual and reproductive health care in Port-a-Piment, and treating victims of sexual and gender-based violence in Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves.
After more than 15 years, MSF was forced to close its emergency centre in Martissant, Port-au-Prince, after an armed group fired on the facility on 26 June 2021, putting medical staff and patients at risk. Earlier in the year, MSF was forced to relocate its burns hospital from Drouillard to Tabarre due to insecurity.
The earthquake in August 2021 is just one in a string of disasters to plague the country. In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, resulting in thousands of deaths and leaving more than one million people homeless. The already damaged healthcare system was further weakened by the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In July 2021 the president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated, causing additional political and economic turmoil in the country.
Following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 14 August 2021, more than 12,000 people were injured and in need of urgent care. Initial assessments showed that 36 health facilities were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. Many hospitals have had to evacuate their patients, and the only facilities still able to function have been overwhelmed with patients and face critical shortages of medical equipment and medicines.
Following the earthquake, the area experienced aftershocks and landslides, causing additional damage, as well as Topical Storm Grace which passed by the southern peninsula and caused extremely heavy rain and flooding. The storm complicated rescue efforts by making more areas inaccessible and endangering the tents and temporary structures being used for urgent medical care, aid and shelter.
Additional MSF emergency staff—including emergency coordinators, medical teams (including trauma surgeons) and logistical experts—have arrived in Haiti. MSF has flown in 100 tonnes of essentials supplies to Haiti.The cargo includes items for setting up emergency medical structures and offices for our operations using tents, materials to install emergency drinking water supply systems for at least 30,000 people, and medical supplies for the care of 30,000 patients.
In the first hours after the earthquake, the MSF team based in Port-à-Piment and an emergency medical team from Port-au-Prince began assisting injured patients in Sud province. The hospital in Port-à-Piment where MSF runs a sexual and reproductive health project has been damaged, and patients have been evacuated to a tent where our staff continue to provide care.
In Les Cayes, the capital of Sud province, MSF has started surgical activities and logistical support in the Hôpital Général des Cayes. We are distributing essential non-food items and performing water and sanitation activities, as well as providing donations of tents and medical supplies to various hospitals in Les Cayes. In Port-Salut, we have received patients with injuries and fractures, including patients referred from other locations, and are providing stabilisation, surgical and follow-up care.
Our teams are running mobile clinics to provide healthcare to more remote communities, which have less access to aid and are some of the most affected by the earthquake. MSF’s mobile clinics focus on providing primary health care services and transporting patients with more severe conditions to functioning facilities when possible. In addition to injuries from the earthquake and related wounds and infections, mobile clinic patients often have respiratory and vaginal infections, skin conditions, signs of malnutrition and other illnesses associated with poor living conditions and lack of access to water and hygiene services. MSF has also begun offering mental health consultations at our mobile clinics. MSF has provided donations of medical supplies to multiple health centres throughout Sud, to facilitate (free of charge) the stabilisation and referral of patients.
In the town health centre of Petit Trou, most people are staying outside out of fear of further collapse of buildings including at hospital structures. Most medical consultations are taking place outside. We have donated supplies to the health centre and organised a water truck to deliver water to the community.
The town of Baradères is almost entirely cut off from major routes, making it difficult to get aid and supplies in. Many families have been sleeping outside near their demolished homes. There were also a few families attempting to build wooden structures. MSF has donated medical supplies and set up tents for temporary healthcare, and have set up a water tank at the Baradères health centre to ensure continued water supply to the centre and the community.
The hospital in L’Asile (Hopital Communautaire L’Asile) as well a hospital in Bonne Fin have both been damaged in the earthquake, with patients being treated outside the unstable buildings. We have donated medical supplies and tents to set up temporary healthcare, and installed a pump and a water tank to provide clean water. We have donated supplies to Sainte-Thérèse hospital in Miragoâne, and an MSF surgeon and nurse are providing medical support.
In addition to meeting immediate needs, our teams are focusing on community engagement as well as health promotion to understand the needs of the community, build awareness and acceptance of MSF’s work, and to share health messages related to infectious diseases and water and sanitation.
With many access routes in the region seriously damaged, MSF teams are moving essential supplies by air. We have also provided medical supplies, including sterilisation material, for the medical facility.
An MSF team has assessed the needs in the hard-hit communities of Corail and Pestel, which are 80 percent destroyed. In the hard-hit commune of Pestel, a three-hour drive from Jérémie, MSF donated supplies to the local health center and referred several patients to Les Cayes or Jérémie.
While the earthquake did not cause major damage to infrastructure or buildings in the city, thousands of injured patients from affected areas have come to the city for care.
MSF is treating injured people in our trauma hospital in Tabarre, and has broadened the criteria for admission and expanded bed capacity to care for as many of those injured as possible. When the earthquake struck, most of the beds at the Tabarre hospital were already occupied with its existing burns and trauma patients. The hospital then received a total of 70 earthquake survivors in a matter of days, 48 of whom were admitted for surgery or other treatment. The needs exceeded the hospital's normal capacity of 70 beds, and so the staff add 19 beds in covered areas of the courtyard and elsewhere inside the building to accommodate the additional patients.
We are also providing emergency care in the new Sacré-Coeur Hospital, and are referring patients to other hospitals for additional treatment. In the aftermath of the quake MSF teams launched a blood collection campaign in collaboration with local authorities to address potential blood shortages.
People in Haiti continue to face multiple barriers to healthcare amid ongoing political and economic crises. Violence is rife, particularly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where gangs fight for territory and influence. In 2020, there were repeated strikes and staffing shortages in public health facilities due to attacks on health workers, non-payment of wages and the risks of COVID-19.
Our emergency centre in the impoverished Martissant neighbourhood treats and stabilises patients with urgent needs, including severe asthma attacks, childhood medical emergencies, and injuries from violence and accidental trauma. In our trauma hospital in Tabarre, we offer emergency care, surgery, physiotherapy and psychosocial care for trauma patients with life-threatening injuries, such as open bone fractures or bullet wounds to the chest or abdomen. We also supported the adult and paediatric emergency rooms at the Haiti State University Hospital by donating medical supplies, rehabilitating facilities and training staff.
From May to August, 2020 we repurposed our specialist burns unit in the capital to treat patients with COVID-19. In August we helped a local maternity centre reopen safely by screening patients for COVID-19 and providing training and personal protective equipment. We continue to run our clinic for victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the capital’s Delmas 33 neighbourhood, and in February opened a second clinic in Gonaïves, northern Haiti. In both clinics we train public hospital staff and work with local organisations to raise awareness of sexual violence and adolescent sexual health issues. We have also set up a confidential telephone hotline to help victims reach medical services.
In the rural southwest we support sexual and reproductive health services in health centres in Port-à-Piment and the surrounding area. We are gradually increasing our support for comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care in Port Salut.